There was once a time when I had no idea about Palm Oil- of course I knew it existed- but had no idea of the far reaching and detrimental effects that its growth, deforestation and production has on the environment. Now that I know, I can’t ever un-know. And I wouldn’t ever want to either. Learning about this has dramatically changed my life (much like learning about slaughterhouses when I was younger) to the point where it’s at the forefront of my mind at all times. I hope that by me sharing this with you, it’ll not only educate you, but also inspire you to make some changes in your home.
Firstly, meet my adopted orangutan daughter, Monti. Isn’t she beautiful? She’s the best ‘gift’ that I’ve ever received. Everything that I do, and that we as a collective do, no matter how big or small- it’s helping preserve lives and homes of our primate, big cat and many other animal friends. You can adopt an Orangutan too!
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is an edible plant based oil, derived from the pulp of the fruit from oil palm trees. They grow primarily in the tropics, and due to the high oil yield of the trees, it has encouraged wider cultivation, leading to the clearing of forests in parts of Indonesia (and other tropical regions) in order to make space for oil-palm monoculture.
Palm oil is a common ingredient of margarines, biscuits, breads, breakfast cereals, instant noodles, shampoos, lipsticks, candles, detergents, chocolates and ice creams.
The list of products that rely on the unique properties of palm oil is long, with one estimate suggesting that about a half of all packaged items found in supermarkets contain it.*
Palm oil has over 200 different names; making it extremely easy for companies and manufacturers to hide it.
It’s cheap, easily accessible, used as a filler in food, remains solid at room temperature; and as a saturated fat, it’s also bad for our health.
What are some names of Palm oil?
This is where things get a little bit murky, and where even the most discerning consumer gets confused.
With so many different names, and a multitude of products coming onto the market daily, it is truly a maze.
What did I ditch first?
I guess for us, already having a mostly vegan household made it easy – but it still took some investigating, and I’m not going to pretend that all we live on is brown rice and tofu. But it definitely wasn’t as hard as it could have been.
The first thing for me was getting rid of any Nuttlex in the fridge (they have since released one that is palm oil free, which seems to only be available in certain supermarkets).
Then it was any processed food we had laying around (crackers, corn chips, cereals) – again, we didn’t have a lot of that as it’s not our diet, but it all went in the trash.
Salsa’s and sauces- out they went.
(NB: I hate wasting food. It’s always bothered me. But with the small amount we had, it wasn’t worth giving away. If you can and feel comfortable doing so, there are plenty of shelters and kitchens that may accept donations.)
Being an avid label reader of my skin, body and haircare, this wasn’t a big turn around either- as the products I choose personally are all a-ok.
But Pauls deodorant was a big wake up call for both of us. I’ve had him try everything over the years; natural sprays, crystals, rock salt, coconut oil, deodorant pastes and creams, tea tree oil, essential oil deo’s, and he just can’t help sweating and smelling. He’s always gone back to commercial brands (much to my horror and disgust) but has promised that if ever I find something that stops him smelling funky, he’ll ditch it.
But when I told him about Mitchum, Rexona and Dove all using palm oil (and of course, animal testing) out his men’s deodorant went, in the bin.
(Now he has a sweaty underarm situation on his hands- SOS!)
Then it was as simple as just replacing anything that needed to be replaced.
Where should you start?
Here are some tips to make your transition to a palm oil free household easier!
Read labels and articles, watch videos, and ask the questions. Don’t be afraid to contact companies and ask them to clarify their ingredients if you need to.
Realise that we’re all on a journey. Some of us may take a different route, and some of us may never get there. But the best thing you can do is be the best walking, talking advertisement for the lifestyle you lead.
-Accept your past choices
If you’ve got a pantry and fridge filled with food that contains PO, don’t beat yourself up. This is all about education. What can you learn from the labels? What can you identify? And what can you replace them with?
Make the decision to turf, or donate the food. Or, eat it, if you can. Don’t view it as ‘the last meal’ as that will only create a taboo on that food, which could lead to cravings! You’re psychologically strong! You can do this!
-Vow to make ethical and educated choices in the future
You have the power. You’re the customer. You have the money that buys the products, that pays the companies, that manufactures the product, that buys the ingredients, that can choose whether or not to choose sustainable ingredients or not.
Make ethical choices and support those companies and brands that are committed to sustainability and staying PO free.
-Know that anything you can buy, can also be bought Palm Oil Free
You may have to do your homework, and even order online to get PO free alternatives, but it’ll be worth it! I promise!
How can you make a difference?
Here’s a list of some of my favourite vegan and palm oil free gifts/products
What about sustainable palm oil? In my opinion, if we can go without it- all the better! It takes about 3 metres of space per tree, and each tree produces fruit for harvest within 4 to 6 years of planting.^
Here’s two fantastic resources from my friend Bev from With Compassion and Soul:
One thing that has made my shopping trips much more bearable and easy to decipher is the Palm Oil Investigations app.
You simply hold a product barcode underneath the scanner on the app, and it’ll bring up the information (if the product is in their database) on whether or not the product is Certified Palm Oil Free, CSPO (Certified Sustainable Palm Oil), or RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)#. They’re always adding to the database, and you can help the cause by submitting ingredients listings directly to them.
They also have this incredible wallet sized list that you can save and print off to take shopping with you, listing all of the alternate names of palm oil.
This is largely for Australians- but the ingredients even in the same product can change country to country- so please check before purchasing.
There’s so much information online, and one of my favourite facebook pages always has the latest info- check out Palm Oil Investigations here .
I truly believe that with all of us making a concerted effort to buy palm oil free products, we can make a difference.
Vote with your dollar, stand up to the big companies, and let them know that we aren’t going to be blind sighted anymore!
Let them know we demand to protect the rainforests and the animals that call it home.
I’d love to hear from you- what products do you LOVE that are PO free?
What helped you ditch PO?
What advice helped you?
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